Mackinac Conference Begins Today

The Grand Hotel is the venue for the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference (Grand Hotel Facebook cover photo).

The biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference begins today at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The conference, held in September of every odd year, is a get-together for Michigan Republicans. With a variety of speakers and campaign get-togethers, the conference could be quite a news-maker. Here are four things to expect from the MRLC, which runs from today until Sunday.


The Michigan GOP invites Republican officials and activists from across the country to speak at the Mackinac Conference. This year, speakers include Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, former Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, in addition to numerous Michigan officials and pundits.

Straw Poll

The straw poll is a regular feature of the Mackinac Conference. This year’s straw poll will be conducted by MIRS and Crain’s Detroit Business. The poll is open to all conference attendees, and will survey their preference for Governor, U.S. Senate, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor, and various ballot proposals. The poll has the potential to be a good predictor, but a lot can change between now and next August, and polls of activists may not indicate the at-large opinions statewide. For instance, in 2015, Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) won the Presidential straw poll, but he was long out of the race by the time the primary rolled around.


Most Republican candidates for statewide offices will be attending the conference, so you can expect to see a great deal of campaigning. Many candidates will be hosting receptions and meet-and-greets so the GOP activists can get to know them. With less than a year until the primary, their is no time to waste.


Besides candidates who have already announced, there will certainly be potential/likely candidates in attendance as well. It is possible that some may announce their campaigns right there on Mackinac Island. Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) appears likely to run for U.S. Senate, and he has been running ads on Facebook highlighting his record. It is quite possible he announces a Senate campaign at his “Kickoff to 2018” on Saturday. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley may also announce a run for Governor. He will be holding a “Rally with Calley” this evening (not under the auspices of his Clean MI Gov’t ballot proposal), and could announce his gubernatorial run then. With President Trump’s backing of Bill Schuette, Calley may need a strong start soon to get any sort of foothold in the campaign. Other candidates may announce campaigns as well, or at least hype future announcement events.

Certainly, the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference will prove to be great gathering of Republican activists, reflecting on past successes and looking to the future. As Governor Snyder’s tenure comes to a close, and Republicans look to replace Debbie Stabenow, 2018 looks to be an exciting election year. The conference this weekend will be only the beginning.

For more information on the speeches and activities taking place, see the MRLC schedule.

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